Page images
PDF
EPUB

Accum. In the making of Bread, more especially in London, various ingredients are occasionally mingled with the dough. To suit the caprice of his customers, the baker is obliged to have his bread light and porous, and of a pure white. It is impossible to produce this sort of bread from flour alone, unless it be of the finest quality. The best flour, however, being mostly used by the biscuit-bakers and pastry-cooks, it is only from the inferior sorts that bread is made; and it becomes nėcessary, in order to have it of that light and porous quality, and of a fine white, to mix alum with the dough. Without this ingredient, the flour used by the London bakers would not yield so white a bread as that sold in the metropolis. The quantity of alum necessary to be used, depends entirely on the genuineness of the flour, and the quality of the grain from which it is obtained. The smallest quantity which can be employed with effect to make a light, white, and porous bread, is from three to four ounces of alum to a sack of flour, weighing 240 pounds. If the flour happens to be of an inferior quality, or in any degree spoiled, a greater quantity of alum will be required; and herein consists the fraud, that the baker is enabled, by the use of this ingredient, to produce from bad materials bread that is light, white, and porous, but of which the quality does not correspond to the appearance, and thus to impose upon the public. The contrivances adopted to conceal this fraud, are pointed out in the following passage by Mr Accum.

· The baker asserts that he does not put alum into bread; but he is well aware that, in purchasing a certain quantity of flour, he must take a sack of sharp whites (a term given to flour contaminated with a quantity of alum), without which it would be impossible for him to produce light, white, and porous bread, from a half-spoiled material.

• The wholesale mealman frequently purchases this spurious commodity (which forms a separate branch of business in the hands of certain individuals), in order to enable himself to sell his decayed and half-spoiled flour.

• Other individuals furnish the baker with alum mixed up with salt, under the obscure denomination of stuff. There are wholesale manufacturing chemists, whose sole business is to crystallize alum, in such a form as will adapt this salt to the purpose of being mixed in a crystalline state with the crystals of common salt, to disguise the character of the compound. The mixture called stuff, is composed of one part of alum, in minute crystals, and three of common salt.' pp. 13-15.

There is another substance, namely, subcarbonate of ammonia, made use of by bakers, in order to produce light and porous bread from spoiled flour; and this salt being volatilized during the process of baking, not a vestige of it remains in the

bread. Potatoes are likewise constantly used by many bakers; and we have heard it asserted on good authority, that by this admixture the bread is improved. In this case, then, it is only a pecuniary fraud which is practised on the public, the baker charging his customers the same price for potatoes as for flour, though they cost him much less. The small quantity of alum mixed in the bread, as well as the carbonate of magnesia, are also said to be perfectly harmless; so that the adulterations practised in this prime article of subsistence, however disgraceful they may be, do not appear to be dangerous to health.

The same cannot be said in favour of the adulterations practised in the article of Wine, some of which indeed.can scarcely be called adulterations, seeing that, from a variety of base ingredients, there is manufactured an entirely new and most pernicious compound, calculated to defraud those who use it both of their money and their health. In every respect, wine is a most favourable subject for deceptions of this nature. It is a costly article, and it is in universal use; among the poor as a cordial, and among the rich as a luxury. The peculiar qualities too for which wine is prized, are of a delicate nature; and though, by experienced judges, they may be discerned with certainty, the great majority of those who affect a discriminating taste in wines, frequently become the dupes of skilful impositions; and the poor who use wine as a medicine, and usually buy it in retail, must take what is given them, having nothing to trust to but the conscience of the dealer, which has been long rendered callous by the love of gain. Wine, accordingly, appears to be a subject for the most extensive and pernicious frauds.

" All persons (Mr Accum observes) moderately conversant with the subject, are aware, that a portion of alum is added to young and meagre red wines, for the purpose of brightening their colour; that Brazil wood, or the husks of elderberries and bilberries, which are imported from Germany, under the fallacious name of berry dye, are employed to impart a deep rich purple tint to red port of a pale colour ; that gypsum is used to render cloudy white wines transparent; that an additional astringency is imparted to immature red wines by means of oak-wood and sawdust, and the husks of filberts; and that a mixture of spoiled foreign and home-made wines is converted into the wretched compound frequently sold in the metropolis by the name of genuine old Port.'

Other expedients are resorted to in order to give flavour to insipid wines. For this purpose bitter almonds are occasionally employed; factitious port wine is also flavoured with a tincture drawn from the seeds of raisins; and other ingredients are free quently used, such as sweet brier, orris root, clary, cherry laurel water, and elder flowers. All these substances may be purchased by those who know where to apply for them; and even a manuscript receipt-book, containing directions for preparing them, and for managing, or, as the phrase is, for doctoring all sorts of wines, may be obtained on payment of a suitable fee. In London, the sophistication of wine is carried to an enormous extent, as well as the art of manufacturing spurious wine, which has become a regular trade, in which a large capital is invested; and it is well known that many thousand pipes of spoiled cider are annually sent to the metropolis for the purpose of being converted into an imitation of port-wine. That frauds of this nature have been of long standing, appears from a passage in the Tatler, quoted by Mr Accum, in which it is stated, that there is in the metropolis a certain fraternity of chemical operators who work under ground in holes, caverns, and dark retirements.'- These subterraneous philosophers (it is observed) are daily employed in the transmutation of liquors, and, by the power of magical drugs and incantations, raising under the streets of London the choicest products of the hills and valleys of France.'

Innumerable are the tricks practised to deceive the unwary, by giving to weak, thin, and spoiled wines, all the characteristic marks of age, and also of flavour and strength. In carrying on these illicit occupations, the division of labour has been completely established; each has his own task assigned him in the confederate work of iniquity; and thus they acquire dexterity for the execution of their mischievous purposes. To one class is allotted the task of crusting, which consists in lining the interior surface of empty wine bottles with a red crust. This is accomplished by suffering a saturated hot solution of supertartrate of potash, coloured red with a decoction of Brazil-wood to crystallize within them. A similar operation is frequently performed on the wooden cask which is to hold the wine, and which, in the same manner as the bottle, is artificially stained with a red crust; and on some occasions the lower extremities of the corks in wine bottles are also stained red, in crder to give them the appearance of having been long in contact with the wine. It is the business of a particular class of wine-coopers, by means of an astringent extract mixed with home-made and foreign wines, to produce 'genuine old port,' or to give an artificial flavour and colour to weak wine; while the mellowing and restoring of spoiled white wines is the occupation of another class called refiners of wine. Other deceptions are practised by fraudulent dealers, which are still more culpable. The most dangerous of these is where wine is adulterated by an admixture of lead. It is certain that some preparations of this metal pose sess the property of stopping the progress of wine to acidity, and also of clarifying white wines after they have become muddy; and in the metropolis, which seems to be the head-quarters of all those shameful abuses, it is freely used by the wine-merchants for this purpose. In Graham's Treatise on Wine-making, under the article of Secrets, there are directions how to use lead for the purpose either of recovering bad wine, or of preventing wine from turning acid. It is stated, in defence of this practice, that the quantity of lead used is so small, that it can produce no bad effects; and that, besides, the lead does not remain in the wine. The contrary, however, is proved by chemical analysis; and as lead taken into the stomach is highly deleterious, and occasions the most afflicting diseases, wine, with the smallest quantity of it intermixed, becomes a slow but sure poison; and Mr Accum therefore justly observes, that the • merchant or dealer who practises this dangerous sophistication, adds the crime of murder to that of fraud, and deliberately scatters the seeds of disease and death among those customers who contribute to his emolument.' The effects of lead in improving wine were, it appears, well known to the ancients, who made use of it for this purpose long before they were aware of its pernicious effects.

Spirituous liquors, which in this country form one of the chief articles of consumption, would, we have every reason to imagine, be the subject of equally extensive frauds with wine, were it not that the great quality of spirits, namely, the strength, admits of being fixed by such easy and accurate tests. Spirits being subject to a heavy tax, it became necessary, for the sake of the revenue, that some certain method should be adopted for ascertaining their strength; and several very accurate instruments have accordingly been contrived for this purpose. The deceptions, therefore, which are practised by the dealers in this article, are chiefly confined to fraudulent imitations of the peculiar flavour of different sorts of spirits; and as this flavour constitutes, along with the strength, the value of the spirit, the profit of the dealer consists in imitating this quality at a cheaper rate than it is produced in the genuine spirit. The flavour of French brandy is imitated, by distilling British molasses spirit over wine lees; previous to which, however, the spirit is deprived of its peculiar disagreeable flavour, by rectifia cation over fresh-burnt charcoal and quicklime. This operation is performed by those who are called brewers' druggists, and forms the article in the prices-current called Spirit Flavour, Wine lees are imported into this country for the purpose, and they pay the same duty as foreign wines. Another method of ini:

tating the flavour of brandy, which is adopted by brandy merchants, is by means of a spirit obtained from raisin wine, after it has begun to become somewhat sour. “Oak saw-dust,' (Mr Accum observes), and a spirituous tincture of raisin stones, are likewise used to impart to new brandy and rum a ripe taste, resembling brandy or rum long kept in oaken casks, and a somewhat oily consistence, so as to form a durable froth at its surface, when strongly agitated in a vial. The colouring substances are burnt sugar, or molasses ; the latter gives to imitative brandy a luscious taste, and fulness in the mouth.' Gin, which is sold in small. quantities to those who judge of the strength by the taste, is made up for sale by fraudulent dealers with water and sugar; and this admixture rendering the liquor turbid, several expedients are resorted to, in order to clarify it; some of which are harmless, while others are criminal. A mixture of alum with subcarbonate of potash, is sometimes employed for this purpose; but more frequently, in place of this, a solution of subacetate of lead, and then a solution of alum,-a practice reprobated by Mr Accum as highly dangerous, owing to the admixture of the lead with the spirit, which thereby becomes poisonous. After this operation, it is usual to give a false appearance of strength to the spirit, by mixing with it grains of paradise, guinea pepper, capsicum, and other acrid and aromatic substances.

In the manufacture of Malt liquors, a wide field is opened for the operations of fraud. The immense quantity of the article consumed, presents an irresistible temptation to the unprincipled dealer; while the vegetable substances with which Beer is adulterated, are in all cases difficult to be detected, and are frequently beyond the reach of chemical analysis. There is, accordingly, no article which is the subject of such varied and extensive frauds. These are eommitted in the first instance by the brewer, during the process of manufacture, and afterwards by the dealer, who deteriorates, by fraudulent intermixtures, the liquor which he sells to the consumer. The brewer is prohibited by act of Parliament from using any other ingredients than malt and hops; and, according to the evidence of the most experienced judges, the best malt liquor can be made out of these materials, and out of these only. The art then of the fraudulent brewer, consists in the discovery of other and cheaper ingredients, by which he contrives to imitate the qualities of genuine beer or porter. In a practical treatise on Brewing, which has run through eleven editions, the author observes, that malt, to produce intoxication, must be used in such large quantities as would very much diminish, if not totally exclude, the brewer's profit.' Recourse must therefore be had to less costly materials; and though this

« PreviousContinue »